Rural dilemma: big hope or big hype?

The other shoe has dropped in New Hope, Tennessee. As reported yesterday in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the mystery RV park that has prompted so much local angst over the past month is being planned by an Arizona-based company that is relatively new to RV campgrounds but has notably big plans.

Although the Free Press identifies the developer as Red Moon Development, Red Moon appears to be a general contractor whose primary business is construction of high-end luxury homes. However, it also has built at least two Red Moon RV parks that subsequently were renamed and are operated by Scottsdale-based “CRR: A Lifestyle Company,” founded in 2018 for “delivering lifestyle destinations through luxury RV Resorts and Manufactured Housing Neighborhoods,” according to its website. Those properties include the 413-site Verde Ranch RV Resort in Camp Verde, AZ, opened in 2019; and the 265-site River Sands RV Resort near Quartzite, AZ, which opened earlier this year.

Also in the works for CRR are the Coachella Lakes RV Resort, with more than 400 sites on 80 acres near Palm Springs, CA; and the Savannah Lakes RV Resort, which will have more than 300 sites. Both are projected to open later this season. The size and scale of all four properties suggest that the 900 or so residents of New Hope—a wide spot on two-lane Route 156 that has one Dollar General, two beauty shops and a meat processing business—may be on the road to having their world turned upside down, for better and worse.

While stressing that all of its plans for New Hope are still in an extremely preliminary stage, Red Moon already has thrown out some facts and figures for how it envisions the 110-acre farm being developed: a $30 million RV resort with 250 RV sites initially, later to be expanded to more than 400, targeting RVers who would stay seven to 21 days. In keeping with CRR’s other properties, the New Hope site could expect “a set of amenities ranging from clubhouses, pools, laundry buildings, pickleball courts, spas and showers,” as well as a “pond element” and a check-in/general store, according to Red Moon architect Aaron Hillman. Although Hillman did not mention any development along the Tennessee River, that presumably also would be in the works.

These and other aspects of Red Moon’s proposal will be subjected to a vigorous discussion at a town meeting Monday, April 24, when the mayor will be given a petition opposing any zoning changes needed to accommodate the development. Town residents also are expected to raise questions about increased traffic on their rural roads and increased demand on their volunteer fire department and two-man police department. And while a real estate broker working on the deal claims utilities to the RV park would be provided by South Pittsburg, which is on the other side of the river, it hasn’t escaped the notice of New Hope residents that their town was incorporated in 1974 specifically to avoid being absorbed by its larger neighbor.

Still, the usual promises of unexpected prosperity are being dangled before New Hope’s residents, with proponents insisting the project will be good for the community, projecting that it could bring in $1 million a year in hospitality tax revenue. Whether that will be enough to offset the inevitable increase in community costs presumably also will be questioned Monday, as well as the trade-off involved in turning a relatively tranquil corner of Marion County into a resort playground.

While New Hope residents will be looking for answers about a mega-RV project Monday, those potentially affected by a similar project in West Virginia are going to have to wait a while. Several proposals submitted to the state’s Department of Natural Resources to develop an RV campground at Cacapon Resort State Park were scheduled for a public hearing this past Tuesday, April 18, but the hearing has been postponed indefinitely, following legal claims that scheduling of the hearing had not complied with public notice requirements.

A court order calling off the hearing was issued just hours before it was scheduled to start. At this writing, a new hearing date has not been set. At issue are three proposals to create an RVing option at the state park, ranging all the way up to a Blue Water plan for a 350-site campground plus numerous amenities.

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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